Freelance photographer Soe Naing has become the first journalist to pay with his life for trying to report the news. After being detained for four days, he was declared dead this morning as a result of the force used during interrogation. He was arrested by soldiers while covering a silent street protest in the Yangon district of Latha on 10 December to mark Human Rights Day.
Zaw Tun, a freelance photographer who works for various media outlets including Agence France-Presse, was arrested at the same time as Soe Naing. Several sources including a relative told RSF that Soe Naing’s body was handed over to his family this morning. Zaw Tun continues to be held.
“With Soe Naing’s death, a new tragic threshold has been crossed this morning in the terror that Myanmar’s military are using against journalists,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “His death must serve as an alarm signal and push the international community to impose new targeted sanctions on the military junta that has been running the country since February, starting with its chief, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. The world can no longer look on without doing something.”
Two other reporters were arrested two days ago, on 12 December, in yet another sign of the ever-harsher crackdown on media personnel throughout the country.
One was Democratic Voice of Burma reporter Aung San Lin, who was arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night at his home in Pin Zen, a village in Wetlet, a district near the big northern city of Mandalay. RSF has been told that his arrest was a reprisal for his recent report about soldiers deliberately starting fires in order to target pro-democracy activists.
57 journalists detained
The other was Min Theik Tun, who was arrested a few hours later along with 11 other persons while covering a protest in Monywa, a town 100 km west of Mandalay, for a regional news agency, according to the Mizzima News website. Neither he nor Aung San Lin were able to talk with a relative or a lawyer.
RSF began sounding the alarm about the latest escalation in the persecution of journalists in Myanmar last week, after the violent arrests of two Myanmar Pressphoto Agency journalists, Kaung Sett Lin and Hmu Yadanar Khet Moh Moh Tun, on 5 December. The latter, who was badly injured when arrested, is still in a serious condition, according to the latest information.
According to RSF’s press freedom violations barometer, which is constantly updated, at least 57 journalists are currently imprisoned in Myanmar.
Myanmar is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index that RSF published in early 2021.